Sunday, February 20, 2011

Systemic Discrimination or Not

So yesterday I attended a NCCP course on a document called the Aboriginal Coaching Manual. The document was originally developed for aboriginals that coach aboriginal athletes, but it later broadened to include non-aboriginal coaches that coach aboriginal athletes (that's me!). Considering the large aboriginal population in Riverton I thought it would be a good course to take.

On the whole I enjoyed the course. I was the only non-aboriginal there, but my opinion was valued just as much as everyone else's. I learned some cool stuff about aboriginal culture, like the significance of the feather (which is prominent in aboriginal art and symbolism) in their teachings. Some pretty cool stuff.

I will admit, when we did the module on racism I was a little bit nervous. I considered pretty carefully when and what I would contribute to the conversation, and most of it was really good. I was a little worried it would degenerate into an "everybody against the aboriginals" discussion, but it really didn't. We talked about non-aboriginals being racist against aboriginals, yes, but we also talked about the reverse and even aboriginal-on-aboriginal racism, so I thought it was a good discussion.

Here is the one thing I opened my yap about that may have rubbed one or two people the wrong way.

We had just discussed systemic racism, loosely defined (since I don't feel like pulling the book out) as seeming neutral rules or procedures that lead to discrimination. And after that, we were talking about positive ways to deal with a situation in which a racial slur/action is used against an athlete. The final step was worded roughly as "Build up the self-esteem of the Aboriginal young person."

This was where I felt I had to voice an opinion. I argued that the statement should simply be "Build up the self-esteem of the young person", why do we need to specify Aboriginal? Is this not a mild form of systemic discrimination?

A woman in the group said to me "Because this is the Aboriginal coaching manual."

I responded to that with something like "Yes, but we can also be in situations where we coach a mix of aboriginal and non-aboriginal athletes. If we want to eliminate racism, shouldn't we remove that distinction from the process of dealing with it?"

She didn't really respond, but a guy sitting next to me said I raised a really good point. Part of the reason I spoke up was the latter part of the definition of systemic discrimination also said that sometimes it needs to be pointed out by an outside party because an organization might not even realize they are doing it.

So what do you think? Was I way off base or on the right track?

Extra Tidbit: I did have the thought during this module that competitions that only aboriginal athletes can enter might also be a form of systemic discrimination but I didn't want to push it!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jay, I totally agree with both your points about racism. I, too, have a problem with 'aboriginal only' sporting events. I can't imagine trying to pull off a 'white only' hockey tournament!